The Tower of Babel and the Struggle to Be Like God

History has a habit of repeating itself. No matter how advanced modern man becomes the world still seems to make similar mistakes as in the past and falls for the same lies. One of the lies which America continues to believe is the notion that man can become God. This struggle to be like God is not unfamiliar to man. After all, the serpent successfully convinces Adam and Eve that in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they will be like God, knowing all. From the moment of the fall, the serpent repeats this lie from generation to generation.

The serpent plants this desire to be like God in the hearts of the ancient Sumerians, the earliest known civilization. To fulfill this desire, the Sumerians intend to build a tower so high that it will reach the heavens. Though also meant to serve as a symbol of their unity, the Sumerians reveal the true purpose in commencing construction on the Tower of Babel. They proclaim: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4) Their statement mimics the words which God speaks in creating man: “Let us make man in our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Hence, the Sumerians attempt to parody God’s creative act in building the Tower of Babel.

The ambition and pride in thinking that they can build a tower so high that it could reach the heavens does not bode well for the Sumerians. God, knowing the intentions of their hearts realizes that the building of the tower reflects the people’s desire to be like him. If successful, God notes that their desire will only spread as “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Gen. 11:7). To chastise the Sumerians for their sin, God descends from the heavens and confuses the tongues of the people.

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Instead of achieving the unity and honor they desired, the people of Sumeria no longer understand each other. The building of the tower comes to an abrupt end as disorder and confusion ensue and each man scatters across the face of the earth. The tower, intended to represent the unity and power of the Sumerians, now symbolizes disunity and failure.

The mentality of the Sumerians reflects that of today’s society. Modern man, like those who built the Tower of Babel, strives to be like God when he casts God from the public sector and rejects as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says “faith in the Creator and [the] readiness to listen to the ‘language’ of creation.” In so doing, Benedict reflects man “wants to become his own master, and alone—always and exclusively—to determine everything that concerns him.” The eventual consequences of such actions lead man to self-destruct.

When man asserts himself as creator he allows anything, moral or immoral, to be permissible. Man, no longer abiding by the natural law, creates laws which contradict the good of man and which treats his fellow neighbor as an expendable utility. The life of an unborn child, no longer viewed as a blessing, becomes an inconvenience for many. The baby’s very existence now calls for a decision whether or not the baby should live or die. The sick and elderly have become dispensable as the public have a “right” to legally masquerade murder by euthanizing their loved ones to spare them from further pain and suffering. If this was not enough, physician assisted suicide, now legal in five states, provides the false comfort of having family members “die with dignity.”

Not only does modern man instruct God when and how life should enter and leave this world, but also man dictates to the Creator about man’s very nature. No longer deemed just “male” and female,” humanity can choose among sixty-three genders to identify himself. The basic fundamental nature of man and woman which God created and intended for each person now becomes the result of a personal choice. Under the guise of “self-discovery,” the gender crisis attempts to recreate man and dismisses the fundamental identity of each and every person, as Ratzinger explains, “the creature of God, and by his grace, his child and heir to eternal life.” When man compromises his very nature, he jeopardizes his identity and the very image which God created him to be.

With this, the sacredness of the family, the nucleus of society, is undermined. The promulgation and widespread acceptance of homosexual unions destructs everything that is true, good and beautiful about the human person and the family. Marriage according to the natural order has both the good of the couple and the good of existence as its proper end for love and life are intrinsically bound together. In recognizing homosexual unions man rejects God as the author of marriage and dismisses marriage both on the natural and supernatural level.

The result only breeds confusion and disorder. Man, forgetful of his identity, truly believes that nothing is impossible for him to attain or re-create. At World Youth Day in his meeting with the Polish bishops, Pope Francis quoted a private conversation he had with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI saying: “We live in an age of sin against God the Creator.” Francis continues: “He [Benedict] is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way … and we are doing the exact opposite.” Though this quote was specifically referenced to the gender crisis, it rings true for all the ways in which members of society lose their identity as creatures made in God’s image and likeness and therefore attempt to act as God. The results of these actions lead, as Benedict warns, to the “self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.”

By playing God through decisions of bestowing and taking life, re-creating one’s identity through gender and by redefining marriage, the modern world has sinned grievously against God the Creator. Man distorts the very nature by which he was created. Pope Francis rightly reflects that “we are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.” By trying to be like God, man has forgotten who he is and the very dignity he has been given by virtue of the image and likeness by which he has been made. Instead of seeing the world and himself as a beautiful mystery to be marveled at and which displays God’s grandeur and wisdom, man tests God’s patience by over-stepping the limits of his sovereignty of the earth given him in the Garden. His search for emancipation from God as Creator only ends in man’s own destruction.

Yet, throughout the years, humanity has not learned from his mistakes. Modern man continually strives to recreate himself and the world around him. He repeatedly listens to the serpent’s lies and becomes no different from the Sumerians who thought that they too could be like God in building a tower which would reach the heavens.


  • Maria Cintorino

    Maria Cintorino graduated with a B.A. in Theology and minor in Philosophy from Christendom College. She spent a semester studying in Rome and currently teaches at a Catholic school in Northern Virginia.

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